- A noticeable cooling and warming effect?
- Calming and comforting ?
- Smart idea, with more uses than you’d expect
- A little bulky for smaller wrists?
- May not work as well on some people?
There are two types of people in the world: those who are always a bit too cold, and those who are always a little too warm. The Embr Wave, a unique wearable device, promises to come to the aid of both those types of those people.
Worn on your wrist, the Wave generates small amounts of cooling or warming sensations, which the creators of the wearable calls ‘Thermal Waveforms’. These hot and cold waves can be customised depending on whether you need a big hit of warmth or a soothing, prolonged dose of cool.
There are lots of ways the Wave could be used to make people feel a bit more comfortable. Whether you feel too cold on a plane or in an air-conditioned office and need some warmth, through to finding heat accompanies an anxiety attack or hot flashes and you need some cooling respite.
The Embr Wave launched on Kickstarter in 2017, surpassing its funding goals six-fold. Since then, it’s been released to the public and has already been bolstered by additional research backing up its claims, and has received a number of small but significant updates to its app too.
We put the Embr Wave to the test for a month to see whether this unusual device really can deliver on its temperature promises, which Elizabeth Gazda, CEO of Embr Labs, refers to as “thermal wellness.”
Embr Wave: Design and comfort
It's fair to say the Wave doesn't look like any wearable we've had on our wrists before. The very angular-looking device is built from stainless steel with a milanese band and measures in at 13mm thick. To put that into perspective, the Apple Watch Series 4 is 10.7mm thick.
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It’s the same size and shape as an old mobile phone battery or a small box of matches, with a textured wave pattern on the top and the smooth, cooling and warming thermoelectric module on the back.
As you’ll see from the photos, you can wear the Embr Wave on the top of the wrist, but it has a more powerful and intense effect when worn underneath – this area is even more sensitive. However, wearing it underneath your wrist when you’re typing or working can get in the way a little. That’s because it’s quite bulky in comparison to say a slim smartwatch or fitness tracker.
However, the bulkiness doesn’t feel too obtrusive thanks to that strap, which is very comfortable and has a magnetic fastening, which does feel a lot like the Apple Watch’s Milanese Loop band. This keeps the Wave very flush to your skin without feeling too tight, and it’s the perfect design for a wearable that’s a little on the heavier side.
On the front of the Wave, there’s an LED light strip. This acts as an indicator of the cooling and warming effect, turning from blue to pink. But it’s also a button to control the temperature. You can push the left side to cool, the middle to stop and the right side to warm. Then, let’s say you’re in a cooling mode, you can push the left button to make it even colder or hit the right side to increase the temperature a little if things get too frosty.
When you open up the Embr Wave app, you get much more precise control over your temperature, but putting the button on the front removes any friction and allows you to quickly adjust the settings if you’re working or don’t have your phone nearby.
Embr Wave: Setting up and how it works
To get working, the Embr Wave straps onto your wrist. You can wear it like a regular watch, but you’ll get the most benefit if it’s on the underside. That’s because there it can take advantage of the high-density of temperature-sensitive nerve endings in your skin, known as cold and warm thermoreceptors, which are highly responsive to any change in temperature.
The Wave uses Embr’s Thermal Waveforms technology, which essentially cools or warms your skin with ‘waves’ generated from the device’s thermoelectric module located on the underside.
When the thermoreceptors detect these temperature changes, they send a signal to your brain. From there, your brain processes the thermal sensation through a complex network that includes the regions of the brain responsible for touch, pleasure, thermoregulation, emotion, and the balance of the autonomic nervous system.
The sensation feels a little strange at first, but the idea is that it provides consistent relief and feels more natural than sudden blasts of warm or cool. Within minutes your body’s response to the waves makes you feel colder or warmer overall, yet it doesn’t change your core body temperature.
Embr Wave: Does it work?
It all sounds impressive. But did it actually work? For us, it really did and it actually became more effective over time. The Wave was particularly useful in cooling us down when feeling travel sick, stressed or just generally too warm. Instead of wearing it all the time, carrying it around (it comes with a handy little pouch) meant putting it on when it felt necessary to use it. Using it to deliver short, 15 minute sessions of intense, cooling waves in the morning and mid-afternoon had a pleasant energising effect too.
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Wearing it to bed a few times, theres's a ‘Fall Asleep’ mode, which serves up soothing, light, long waves – a total contrast to the shorter, stronger waves that are designed to make you feel energised.
We tested the Embr Wave in cold temperatures and the warming effect was very comforting and cosy. It seemed to have an even faster heating effect than the cooling did, and would be a godsend if you’re often cold in an air-conditioned office and need a quick hit of warmth.
We had a very immediate and strong reaction to the Embr Wave's tech, but does that mean that some people would be more receptive than others to the technology? Elizabeth Gazda, CEO of Embr Labs told us that some people will have a stronger response than others and it will take most people around seven days to get used to the Wave. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley tested the Wave and found that, on average, it makes people feel 5°F more comfortable overall, which suggests it’s going to make a difference for most of those who use it.
Embr Wave: App
The Embr Wave app (iOS and Android) is minimal, well-designed and extremely easy to use. When you first open it up you’ll see a dial, which is like a personal thermostat.
Scroll to the left to cool and to the right to heat. There’s also a ‘Stop’ option in the middle, which is good in case the temperature gets too much. The number in the middle indicates your current temperature and tells you when to expect the next wave of temperature.
There’s a Modes option, which is where you can select the type of temperature waves you want, as well as how long they’ll last. During the time we've been reviewing the Wave, two have been added already – which is a good sign that the company is continually improving on the experience.
The first is ‘Quick’, this is for giving you a concentrated dose of cool or warm waves that lasts three minutes. The next is ‘Essential’ (which is new). That provides ten minutes of soothing waves. The next is ‘Extended’, which is 30 minutes of intermittent waves. The next is ‘Fall Asleep’, which is 35 minutes of gentle, long waves in which lights are muted.
Then there’s the ‘Custom’ update, which allows you to customise the wave sensation and duration of your cooling and warming sessions. There’s a sliding scale, which gives you options of Soothing, Medium and Energising waves, then you choose the session duration.
It takes a bit of experimentation to figure out which of these Modes work for you, but all the different types, as well as the ‘Custom’ option, should give you plenty of options for different scenarios.
For example, we really liked using ‘Custom’ for 15 minutes of cooling, energising waves when we needed to focus. As you’d expect, ‘Fall Asleep’ was perfect for soothing us to sleep and ‘Quick’ was good for a cooling pick-me-up when I started to feel stressed or travel sick.
There’s a ‘Settings’ section, which gives you even more control. In there you’ll find a lot of options, including an ‘LED Night Mode’, which is for when you want to use the Wave at night – the LED light dims so it’s not distracting.
There’s also an ‘Extra Heat’ setting, this is toggled off by default. You can toggle it on, though Embr warns it could feel painful. For those who really need warming up, this option unlocks the dial so it goes from 13°F up to 16°F.
If you’re always warm or always cool, you can temporarily turn the app into ‘warming only’ or ‘cooling only’. You can switch the other option back on whenever you like, but it’s good to have the choice in case you never use the other one.
There’s also a Compare section of the app, where you can see how often you use the Wave to warm and cool you throughout the day. We didn’t use this feature much, but imagine it’d be useful for longer periods of time to track trends and patterns in your temperature control, especially if your temperature regulation issues stem from a health problem.
Embr Wave: Battery life
Under the temperature dial within the Embr app, there’s always a little indicator showing you how much power is being used by the Wave at any given time. As you’d expect, stronger temperatures and longer sessions use more power.
The app explains you’re likely to get 30 sessions from low battery consumption, between 10 and 30 sessions from medium battery consumption and 10 sessions or less from high battery consumption.
The Custom 15 minutes of energising waves mentioned above used medium power consumption and we found we got nearly 30 sessions out of it – how that translates into days will depend on how often you use it.
If you’re constantly warming or cooling throughout the day, you’re likely to need to fully charge the Embr Wave back up every few days via the microUSB cable included with the device. However, if you depend on it just once a day for a quick hit of cool or warmth, it could last weeks.
Thanks to a recent update, you now get a notification when the battery is running low, which is really helpful as it’s not easy to keep track of how many sessions you’ve had.
How we test